CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A sweeping West Virginia GOP education bill that allows the creation of charter schools violates the state Constitution, according to a teachers union that plans to sue over the legislation.
The West Virginia Education Association released a statement Wednesday saying it has sent a formal letter notifying the attorney general of their intention to sue.
“Since the state requires notice of a lawsuit we wanted to go ahead and get that timeframe started,” said West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee, adding that the group wants to file “as soon as possible.”
Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed the measure late last month after a gridlocked special legislative session on education drew heavy protests from teachers. His spokesman declined to comment on the potential lawsuit.
The broad-based measure deals with several aspects of the state’s education system, but educators and Democrats fiercely opposed the provision to allow the state’s first charters. They argued that the move to install charters was a move driven by outside interests that will steer money away from public schools.
The bill authorizes a staggered implementation of charter schools, limiting the state to three charters until 2023 then letting three more go up every three years after that. It also has a pay raise for teachers, among other things.
Lee said the bill contains a number of Constitutional violations, including the violation of a requirement that bills be limited to a “single object.”
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, a Republican who championed charters throughout the legislative process, said he was confident the measure would hold up in court.
“We’ll win again in court like we’ve already won in the legislative process,” he said.
The governor called the special session after lawmakers failed to agree on education following a two-day teacher strike over a similar bill in February. He asked legislators to get input from the public before returning.
Public forums on education were then held statewide, at the end of which the Department of Education released a report saying 88% of people who answered a comment card at the meetings opposed the creation of charters.